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Petrified Forest: The Land of Dinosaurs

We’ve heard polarizing opinions about the Petrified Forest National Park.  Some warning it’s a complete waste of time and fuel to get to, and others claiming it’s the most interesting landscapes you’ll see in the USA.

blue mesa

For those that said it was a waste of time, you obviously didn’t see what we did.

Drive past the ranger station, park at the Rainbow Forest Museum and you end up at the first hiking loop named Giant Logs (how creative). The loop boasts more petrified wood in one single area than you’ll see most anywhere in the world.  It also hosts one of the largest petrified trees in the world “Old Faithful” not to be confused with the geyser in Yellowstone. We walked around for a bit, freezing our butts off (breezy and 20 degrees F) and sure the petrified wood is neat, however at this point we’re feeling a little like siding with the naysayers about this National Park.

petrified wood

Just across the street is the next major loop called Long Logs and Agate House.  You’ll see some grass, some random pieces of petrified wood strewn about, and a few interesting mounds of grey/black dirt.  Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll be fortunate to spot some of the most beautiful pieces of petrified wood in the forest, the colors are literally unbelievable.

beautiful stone

long logs trail

It’s a long flat loop with only a few highlights, not exactly what you want to hike in sub-freezing temperatures. However, at the end of the trail we’re rewarded with an awesome sight.

agate house

The Agate House is the only structure in the park built from petrified wood and possibly the only one in the world.  A tall hand carved ladder extends through the roof and the sun drops down creating some beautiful reflections in the wood.  Success! This is why we visit national parks: to see life preserved.

agate house view

agate house ladder

Feeling a little more excited from our visit to the Agate House, we decided to hit the Blue Mesa Loop.  I could go into details about how amazing this hike through the bluish badlands is….but I’ll simply let the images tell the story.  Welcome to the land of the Dinosaurs!

blue mountain

happy_hills

amazing view

striped mountain

hanging on

This petrified wood is mostly from the Late Triassic period, about 225 million years ago. That means some of these trees were around before the time of Dionosuars…And I thought my grandmother was old.

views from below

Should you decide to visit the Petrified Forest make sure you leave every piece of this beautiful park behind for others to enjoy.  We asked a ranger why some of the trails have such wonderful names but weren’t that interesting to look at….a simple answer: 12 Tons of Petrified Wood is taken from the park each year. Hikes like Crystal Forest Loop used to be littered with billions of pieces of shiny petrified wood and now the beauty has been ripped from park leaving behind a less spectacular place for future generations to enjoy. If you can’t go home without that little souvenir wait till you get to the gift shop and purchase a piece from outside the park.

colorful hills

A few final thoughts… It’s worth a visit. The hikes are not very challenging, the trails don’t often get you near enough to sights, and you’re really not supposed to leave the trails at this park….but we have not seen a landscape that is similar to the Blue Mesa Loop in all our travels…it’s simply spectacular. Also driving through the park is diverse beyond imagination from the plains, to the badlands, to the iconic route 66 kitsch, and of course the Painted Desert at sunset. Our only regret….we didn’t have enough time to drive north to Canyon de Chelly, Window Rock, and Monument Valley!  I guess there’s always next time….Till then, safe travels!

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (22)

  • John

    We visited the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert but it was last September, so it was plenty warm. We also visited the Agate House, which was definitely interesting. We also visited some other areas. I like the Painted Desert more than the Petrified Forest, but that was just because of the colors. We are from Florida, so this was like a visit to another world. We also visited Antelope Canyon on another day. For me, that was the highlight of our trip to Arizona, which also included the Grand Canyon. Have you been to Antelope Canyon? You gotta take a photographer’s tour of Antelope. That is an amazing place. Horseshoe Bend, which is just a few miles from Antelope, is also an interesting place for pictures.

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  • I enjoyed the same hike you two did and the petrified wood really blew my mind. I had been to the park in the 90’s and found it boring. This time, by hiking the log loop and the agate house trail I enjoyed a closer view of the trees.
    And we camped just outside the park, for free! At the gift shops at the south end of the park the camping is simple, and sweet. Stop at the Park for water, and fill up for the night. I was there January 25, 2015. Cold night beautiful day.

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    • Hey Kit, Glad you gave it a second chance. The night we were in town was -10 so we had to plug in, hope you didn’t have to endure temps that low.

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  • Wow, those pictures are absolutely gorgeous! Me and my husband are doing a cross-country road trip this summer, and we decided to leave out petrified forest because we simply don’t have enough time to see everything. Now I’m kind of starting to regret that, though :/

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  • Jay Tolbert

    My first visit was 1957 during a family vacation of the southwest. Have returned a number of times since but your post was a reminder that it has been too long. And for those that are ‘bored’, if so, you just aren’t paying attention. I found you folks via Cherie and Chris of Technomadia. I enjoy the great information you share about your travels and lifestyle.

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  • The place looks amazing, definitely not a waste of time. Very cute dancing.

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  • Love the dancing Gif. Tra-la-la-lally

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  • Carol Pike

    The pictures are absolutely Stunning! Thanks for sharing them with us…..also love the animated shot..

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  • mary van

    I always have wondered if the Petrified Forest was worth going to. Your grandmother and grandfather were there when they were first married. Yes, it was a LONG time ago because her pictures are black and while. I’ll bet she has a few words for you when she sees your comment.

    The wood is beautiful! Was there a lot of it or just the few that you showed us?

    Love the animation!!

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    • Loads of beautiful pieces of wood strewn about, you just have to keep your eyes peeled for the super colorful ones.
      I hope you can share these photos with Grandma next time you see her.

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  • Peg C

    That time of year might have been a blessing, no other tourists are in your gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing.

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    • We love visiting off season as it does allow us to truly escape into nature without the distraction of other people.

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      • I was at the Petrified Forest in 1964, I was first to arrive at 7:00 AM or so and drove out onto the Plato all by myself. SILENCE was overwhelming . I went back to my car and turned up the RADIO and walked less then 20 feet away from my car and I could not hear it, VERY much a lonely but beautiful place

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        • It is a beautiful place, and for us it was so cold there wasn’t anyone there. Great memories and the photos to prove it.

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  • Great pictures – another place we need to visit – I think I prefer a little closer to summer!

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  • Who would say it was a waste of time. Some very boring person, I suppose. I love it there and would head out there all the time if it was closer to me. The colors are incredible.

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  • The animated still shot is really well done!

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  • I love the photos! It’s hard for me to say which one I like the most. I know you are a professional photographer but I was wondering if you still use any type of computer program to clean them up?

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    • Travis, we use Lightroom and Photoshop to edit our images. It’s a long process and it’s difficult to fix a bad shot, so make sure you look at the direction of the light before you point the camera (not that you don’t already know that, it just amazes me every time I see a person snapping a photo in the worst directions for light).

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